Amazon isn’t directing users to the cheapest products on its website when customers use search; instead the company is favoring its own products or those from its partners who pay for Amazon’s services.
This was the conclusion reached by an investigation by ProPublica. The highly respected publication tracked promoted goods and offers that appear in the so-called “buy box” – the products that Amazon recommends first when a user searches for something. Of the 250 products that were tracked over several weeks, those sold by Amazon or its partners appeared around 75% of the time, even if they weren’t the best deals.
The report also states that Amazon-branded goods, or those from its partners don’t have their shipping prices shown when users use the “price + shipping” comparison search. The company responded to this by saying that 90% of its products pass the price threshold for free delivery, but this isn’t the first time the company has faced criticism in this area. Early last month a UK regulator found Amazon was “misleading customers” with its free shipping offers.
ProPublica’s investigation found that the average price difference between an item Amazon recommended and the cheapest offer available on the website was around $8. If a customer was to buy all the 250 items that were tracked, he would have paid an extra $1400 than if he had bought the cheapest ones offered.
For its part, Amazon defended its algorithms and the way it recommends products saying that a large number of factors go into a recommendation including, buyer and seller location, ratings, delivery costs and many others.